The Scottish National party’s new MPs are in talks about replacing the Liberal Democrats as the third party in the House of Commons – including taking over the plush office used by Nick Clegg, chairmanships of select committees and opposition parliamentary time.
We’re the third party by a mile, so we’d expect to undertake all the responsibilities and obligations of the third partyStewart Hosie
According to party insiders, the SNP is negotiating with the parliamentary authorities about what their greater status in Westminster will look like, but nothing is yet agreed.
The Lib Dems chair the justice and international development committees, but they cannot expect to hold on to these posts with just eight MPs in the Commons.
Before entering coalition, the Lib Dems were allotted parliamentary opposition time and questions to the prime minister. These rights are also likely to be handed to the SNP.
Stewart Hosie, who has been the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader and chief whip, told the Guardian: “We’re the third party by a mile, so we’d expect to undertake all of the roles, responsibilities and obligations of the third party. There will have to be discussions about precisely what we get.”
MPs are due to return to the House of Commons from Monday. The 182 new MPs will undergo induction sessions and spend time setting up their offices and hiring staff. There are 74 new Conservatives and 53 new Labour MPs.
But the biggest shakeup will be caused by the arrival of 50 new SNP MPs, adding to the six who were re-elected.
A source said the SNP wanted the main offices of the Lib Dems in the Commons, which is known as the Lib Dem corridor or the Irish corridor.
The party is pushing for the third main whip’s office on the same corridor as that of Labour and the Conservatives, which allows back-channel negotiations between whips from different parties.
It is understood that the SNP expects a place on every select committee and chairmanship of one or two committees.
The party also wants about four opposition supply days of parliamentary time for the third party, a question to the prime minister every week and questions at other departmental question times. They are modelling their demands on the role of the Lib Dems during the 2005 to 2010 parliament.John Harris charts the political earthquake in Scotland
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